Thank you players of People’s Postcode Lottery

Anna O’Reilly, our Assistant Director of Children and Family Services for the East, reflects on how players of People’s Postcode Lottery have prevented children from experiencing trauma and distress, protected children’s rights and helped children and their families recover from abuse over the last 10 years.

It’s been 10 years since players of People’s Postcode Lottery started working with Children 1st to protect children from abuse, neglect and harm and help families and communities keep children safer. When our partnership started, I was a service manager in the Borders. Coming from a background in social work, I’d already been with Children 1st for eight years. Since then I’ve seen at first hand how through their support for Children 1st, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have changed the lives of thousands of children and families across Scotland.

Cupcakes with People's Postcode Lottery branding

Ten years ago, like many others, our services for children and families would often have a ‘parenting programme’ focus that brought families together to provide group support. Children 1st were also already working with the Scottish Government and others to support the introduction of a national approach for children’s wellbeing and protection, Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC), based on the understanding that because every child and family’s experiences, needs and strengths are different, the support they need will also be different.

Since then funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery has helped us develop services that offer bespoke support for families with a focus on the different, specific issues for family.

For example, we now offer bespoke support, information and advice to kinship carers - the relatives or family friends who step in when parents are struggling or unable to look after their children. We also have a number of services that support families impacted by parental substance use, offering support and help to families from workers who understand the kind of trauma and generational adversity that can so often be a factor. By offering trauma-sensitive support to help parents understand and recover from their own difficult experiences we support them to become resilient and to protect current and future generations of children from experiencing similar adversity.

Learning and adapting

At Children 1st we have been able to adapt and learn new approaches as new evidence emerges of best practice. Ten years ago the idea that the majority of high school children would be able to access the internet from their pocket, would have seemed highly futuristic. Since then we’ve come to understand the importance of our workers being able to offer advice, guidance and support parents so that they know they can keep their children safe on the internet. We also regularly support young people to keep themselves safe and understand the risks of new phenomena such as instant messaging, sharing photos, sexting and regular use of social media as their preferred means of communication. All along we have made sure volunteers for our national family support service Parentline understand the impact of our ever changing technology on children and young people and can support parents and carers with these kinds of concerns.

Building on the information we get from supporting individual children and families, we’ve been able to bring about policy changes that improve the lives of every child and young person in Scotland. Over the past 10 years a key focus for us has been around the additional trauma and distress children experience when giving evidence in court. Thanks to players’ support, we’ve been able to take a leading role in campaigns that work to ensure that children no longer have to face their abuser in court through the introduction of special measures. Our aim is that in the near future no child will describe the experience of giving evidence as ‘worse than the abuse itself.’

Much more to do

Unfortunately our work is not yet done. There is a long way to go to make sure that when children are witnesses they can give their best evidence, do not experience further trauma and get full support to recover from their experiences and move on with their lives. So we are continuing to work with the Scottish Parliament and Government, to bring about further change through avenues such as the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) Bill. And sadly, just as there is more to do to protect children’s rights, the growing waiting lists for our services in some areas of Scotland, show how urgently we need to reach more children and their families, giving them the individual support they need to recover from their experiences and keep them safer in future.

It’s an honour and a privilege for me to do the job I do – working to make children and families lives better. And that’s why I’ve stayed at Children 1st for so long – because just like players of People’s Postcode Lottery I remain as dedicated to preventing and protecting children from abuse, neglect and trauma and supporting them to recover from their experiences, as I did 10 years ago.

Together I know that we can continue to reach more children and families in Scotland, however and wherever they need us. Thank you for your ongoing support.